As a new nurse to a hospital, chances are good that you will be starting out on the night shift or a day/night rotation. Working nights can be challenging especially to the uninitiated. Everyone who works nights has experienced the burning eyes, headache, nausea, and sometimes depression that often times accompanies working all night and sleeping during the day. Some people simply can’t cope with it, but most do with some adjustment in routine.
I have worked straight nights 12 hours 1900-0730 for a very long time and would be lying if I said that I “enjoy” it. I am however, able to tolerate it. I have discovered over the years that there are benefits to working nights that once realized, help coping with this lifetyle a bit easier
7 8 Benefits to working nights
Management does not work nights:
I have often said that the nursing world is divided into two distinct camps, Watchers and Doers. During the day the ratio of Watchers/Doers is quite high, however at night the Doers outnumber the Watchers by a significant margin. This makes for a more relaxed atmosphere.
In every hospital in the U.S. snacking in the unit is forbidden, especially during the day. At night though, it has been reported that nurses and doctors get their eats on at the nurses station. I’ve haven’t witnessed this nocurnal grazing with my own eyes, but it is a known fact that rebels are out there.
Less human traffic:
At night nobody comes to see your patient unless you want them to. No PT, OT, this service, that service all asking the same question that makes me absolutely insane, “How’s he doing?” It is especially annoying when you have absolutely no idea who the person doing the asking is and exactly what person wants to know. If you want to know something about my patient be specific because I have a limited number of words for the day, and I don’t want to waste them talking about a body system you don’t care about.
Less families and visitors:
If you are someone not really into the family/visitor thing, then nights might be for you. Working 12 hour nights is the best of both worlds. My shift starts at 1900 which means I can enjoy families and visitors for a couple of hours and then they either go home or to the hotel for the night. There is an occasional straggler who stays late, but if I do my job right and the family likes and trusts me, they rarely stay past midnight. Occasionaly a family member wants to stay all night, so in that case I use reverse psychology and encourage it. I use methods to steer conversation so that the family member gives up the noctournal marathon and goes out to the waiting room to crash. In all my years I’ve only had a handful of visitors go the distance.
Better parking spots:
None of this having to come to work early because you need to circle the parking ramp multiple times to land a spot, and settling for the space furthest from the hospital. On the night shift primo spots are always available and no extra time is required to find them. During the winter months one pet peeve I have is that day shift person who sees me get into my car after a night shift, and sits waiting to pounce on the spot I will soon be vacating. When the temperature is below zero, I’m going to let my car warm up for a while before I pull out, so you’re going to be waiting there for a while buddy.
Night shift differential:
This varies from region to region, and in my experience I have made as much as $4/hr extra. For someone working .9 (72hrs/pp) that adds up to $7500 a year. If you are an OT junkie, getting OT on the night shift is a piece of cake and since you already work nights it is not nearly as hard as a day shifter picking up nights.
Camaraderie and teamwork:
It is a known fact that in just about every hospital in the country that teamwork is better on nights. I think this stems from the fact that there are less Watchers than during the day, and also the possibility that Watchers who are in charge on the night shift are more grounded in reality. Night shift workers get by with fewer resources to get the job done. In my experience working nights I have found that a lot of facilities have an “underground economy”. People rely on each other more at night, and the underground economy is a catalyst for stronger team work.
Going out for drinks at 0730:
Nothing beats going out with your coworkers for breakfast and drinks at an establishment that serves alcohol. If you are new to night shift it may seem strange at first, but if you think about it, enjoying libations with your homies at 0730 is no different than your day counterparts enjoying cocktails at 1930. A fun part of being in a bar at 0730 is the sense of superiority you can feel over patrons who are starting their day with a drink, unlike you who is ending it. There is nothing wrong with having a few beers at 0730 at the end of your day. If it is the start of your day we may have a problem Jim.
Wasted time waiting for and riding on elevators:
During the day a considerable amount of valuable break time is spent waiting for the elevator, and once on stopping at every floor, not to mention sharing intimate space with the housekeeper and his garbage stow full of red bags. On nights elevator wait time is a non issue. It is possible to take the elevator non stop from 10th floor to the lobby, get food from the cafeteria, get back on the elevator sans a large cart full of biohazardous waste, and express back to the 10th floor. Round trip less than 5 minutes. If that isn’t a great reason to work nights, I don’t know what is.
If you know of a benefit to working nights that I didn’t mention, or if you have reasons for hating the night shift please leave a comment and share with the other readers and me.